Punish a Nose Picker?

Cynthia Dermody

Nose-picking is gross, period. Doesn't matter if it's a 34-year-old or a 3-year-old. We want to make our kids stop, but how? Are timeouts or spanks the right approach, or is there another way?

JLynn0871 wanted to know and posted a question in the Medical Questions group (you have to apply to join). She's especially frustrated because her two stepsons, ages 3 and 5, are digging nonstop and (gulp) eating it.

"I have done everything I know in my power to get them to stop and it is like candy to them. I have spatted their hands and took toys but what can I do?" JLynn0871 asks.

Many moms said this is one time where traditional discipline isn't the best approach.

"Do NOTHING. They're boys," says BabyCatchinMama. "They eat boogers! Girls do it, too! Just keep telling them it's icky. Eventually when they do it at school, someone will make fun of them and they'll stop." 

"They pick because their nose has something in it that doesn't feel right," says sweetchere. "Do they have allergies? This can produce more mucus. Or even something as simple as the environment could be making their nose dry and itchy. They even could be dehydrated. Teach them to wash their hands more often. Keep them hydrated. Teach them how to use a Kleenex. Keep their fingernails cut short. Keep their hands busy. Talk to them about the germs they can spread. You can even just bite your tongue and tell them to do it in private if they must." 

"I have heard it explained as a comfort measure for some children," carmadsmom   says. "They get some sort of calming effect from it.  It is kind of like the kids that bite the nails, it is a habit they get into and it is hard to break. They may or may not outgrow it, but just try to let them know that it is not something you do out in public."

And MisCreant in the Step-parenting Group uncovered this advice, which I thought was helpful:

"Get down to the child's level, lovingly put your hands on his shoulders, and in a quiet voice say, 'Josh, people don't like to see nose-picking. If you must pick, do it in private.' When you do it right, you are focusing on the child (not the habit), speaking to the child privately (not ridiculing him in front of others), teaching that nose-picking is undesirable (without implying he is filthy), and giving the child a way of dealing with the nose-picking in a grown-up way by going out of the room. You will probably have to remind your child many times before it clicks, but each time focus on the child, not the nose."

Bottom line: This disgusting habit is common but it's not going to hurt our children. A nosepicking article on Babble.com even suggests that eating one's own, shall we say, nasal discharge (gag me) can actually boost our immune systems.

Um, thanks, but I'm going to urge my kids to stick to fruits and veggies.

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